Bar Entrepreneur Awards - The Finalists

16 May. 2019
11 Bar Entrepreneurs shaking up our world

Do you hear this? It’s the tick tock sound that tells us we’re getting ever closer to the big reveal. Next week, finalists and judges of the Havana Club Bar Entrepreneur Awards, together with a group of distinguished guests from all around the world, are travelling to Cuba. After a few days of total Havana immersion (lucky them!), the first recipients of the Awards will be officially announced.

Over the last couple of months, we’ve introduced you to our excellent judges. It’s now time to — briefly — tell you about the 11 finalists. Some of them have been profiled here in years past. Others will surely make their appearance in longer form very soon. For now, a few lines should suffice to demonstrate their credentials. If you’re looking for more in-depth resumes, the Havana Club Bar Entrepreneur Awards’ official media partner Difford’s Guide has what you need.

Alastair Burgess — Great things are possible on less than a shoestring budget. Just ask Alastair, who turned a Shoreditch cellar into one of the most reliable bars on the World’s 50 Best Bars list. How easy it is now to forget (no pun intended) how Happiness Forgets was launched… And with second bar Original Sin and restaurant Petit Pois (with a Michelin Bib gourmand to its name), Alastair has shown that a little cash goes a long way if you’re smart about it.

Bek Narzi — Classically trained in London’s top bars, Bek went to Russia and became a leader of the cocktail scene: a top bar, a TV cocktail program and a bar show, among other things. If Bek didn’t do it, it’s not worth doing. Now back in the UK, he is running with his family the Pachamama Group — four, soon five, restaurants in one of the world’s most progressive food and beverage scene. A fish in water, wherever you put him.

Carina Soto Velasquez — As a Colombian student on a budget when she first came to Paris, Carina never imagined how her first job at a bar would change her life. Together with her partners at Quixotic Projects (all expats), she has placed herself at the forefront of France’s cocktail revolution. From the iconic Candelaria to Les Grands Verres, her 5 bars / restaurants set the tone: the new French chic. 

Emmanuel Minez — A good entrepreneur realises that a growing community is not competition: it’s opportunity. As one of the brains behind the Lisbon Bar Show, Emmanuel helped Portugal’s bar industry grow leaps and bounds since 2014. And Red Frog, the bar launched the following year, surely benefited from the trend. Since then, he has added one more bar and is in the process of opening a third. Give, and you shall receive. 

JJ Goodman — Who would have put a pound on a cocktail bar chain in a world dominated by big concepts? JJ, apparently. When you’ve found the magic formula, stick to your guns: grow as a business and focus on identity and consistency. The chains were a fixture of the cocktail world in the 1980’s, there’s no reason they can’t be in 2019. This time, though, they have better drinks. Thanks, JJ.

Julien Escot — What do you do when you own one of France’s most revered bars? Sell it and reinvest in order to reinvent yourself. This is what Julien, the 2012 Havana Club Grand Prix winner has done with Montpellier’s Papa Doble, to this day the only French World’s 50 Best Bar outside of Paris. Aperture, his new venue, is a radical… departure. Julien is also a partner at Baton Rouge in Paris, a published author and a product developer. The dean of French cocktail, surely.

Kelsey Ramage — In the era of free information, how do you monetise your free platform? Ask Kelsey, maybe. The sommelier turned bartender launched Trash Tiki with Iain Griffiths in late 2016 and has managed to turn ‘sustainability’ into a very sustainable concern in the bar industry. But there’s always more to do, and her various projects — including a bar — are helping the industry realise that environmental and social concerns need not hurt the bottom line.

Richard Wynne — An entrepreneur needs success but can never expect it. When Richard launched Callooh Callay, financial prospects were bleak. And when his restaurant business was threatened, he could have easily taken the wrong decision. He didn’t: he might not be a restaurateur anymore, but Callooh, at 11 year old, has become a London institution and second bar Little Bat is doing very well indeed. Taking the long view pays. 

Rosie Stimpson — If you ever wonder how it’s possible to run three world class bars with barely any previous experience in the sector, ask Rosie. As a jazz lover and a singer, she once wondered aloud if it wouldn’t be nice to have a bar where great music could be played live. The dream came true with Nightjar. Oriole soon followed, and then came Swift. All have left a profound mark on the cocktail scene. Some people are born to do this, it seems.

Stephan Hinz — A Bar Entrepreneur doesn’t need many bars or even big ones. Take Stephan: yes, his trailblazing work at Little Link is essential for Germany’s cocktail scene. But he is equally at ease developing a spectacular range of cocktail glassware with Spiegelau, creating a revolutionary ice machine or writing a book. And more, we are told, is to come. 

Thanos Prounarous — The economy is tanking, what do you do? Well, launch your country’s most advanced cocktail bar! This is exactly what Thanos did when he opened Baba au Rum in 2009. Since then, the trailblazer has been a defining factor in the development of one of the world’s most forward-thinking cocktail scenes in Athens. And with a magazine, a rum show and many more collaborations, Thanos is a man with a vision.

For more info on the Havana Club Entrepreneur Awards, see the website